Episode 29 (Los Tejanos)
In Today’s episode I want to discuss Los Tejanos. In previous episodes, I’ve discussed the battles that took place Gonzales, Goliad (La Bahia), and the Siege of Bexar (or San Antonio) which took place from October through December of 1835. After the siege of Bexar Texans are in control of San Antonio. Today before I delve too deeply into the actual battle, I want to talk about a segment of the Texas population that played a very important role in the revolution, los Tejanos.
Who are the Tejanos? Simply put they are Mexican Texans; they are the descendants of the Spanish who first colonized Mexico and then moved north into Texas. Through this period they were Mexican citizens. And just as it was among the Mexicans living South of the Rio Grande, there were those who supported the strong central government of San Anna and those who opposed it. They wanted more autonomy for what was then known as the Mexican state of Texas. In that respect, they were very much like the Anglos who were very early settlers. Those very early Anglo settlers were quite different from the ones who flooded in during the 1830s. The majority of these later Anglos came from the deep south and they held the same prejudices as most of those in the south. Regardless of that, and I will talk more about the divide between the races and ethnic groups in later episodes, both the siege and battle of the Alamo involved a considerable number of Tejanos.
They served as defenders, couriers, and noncombatants. In fact, the vast majority of survivors of the final assault in the early morning hours of March 6, 1836, were Tejanos. There were some Tejanos who participated in the events of the siege and final assault as people loyal to the federal government, either as government officials or members of the Mexican military.
There is no way to give an exact number of Tejano defenders, in spite of folklore and Hollywood, there is also no way to give an exact number of Anglo defenders. Why is this? Because there no battle muster rolls and casualty lists, therefore, historians have had to rely on a wide variety of sources to arrive at some idea of a total number of defenders.
The problem is exacerbated in the case of Tejanos, because some sources completely dismiss them. An example of this is, William Barret Travis’s letter of March 3 to the president of the Convention of 1836, in which Travis stated that the citizens of San Antonio were all enemies, except for the ones who entered the Alamo with the Texians, and that there were only three “Mexicans” in the fort with him.
However, after examining the available reliable information, scholars have compiled a much longer list of Tejano participants. This includes events beginning with the arrival of the Mexican army on February 23, 1836, through the final assault on March 6, 1836. In fact, Juan N. Seguín, the senior Tejano military officer, and who the city of Seguin is named after, entered the Alamo with other defenders on February 23. This troop included, approximately fifteen men, most of whom left sometime after Seguín himself was sent out as a courier on February 25. Also entering the Alamo on the first day were Carlos Espalier, Gregorio (José María) Esparza, and Brígido Guerrero, the latter a Mexican army deserter who, like Espalier, appears to have been among James Bowie’s men rather than part of Seguín’s command. Along with Espalier and Esparza, the other Tejano defenders recognized as having died in the final assault include Juan Abamillo, Juan Antonio Badillo, Antonio Fuentes, José Toribio Losoya, Andrés Nava, and Damacio Jiménez (Ximenes), whose death in the final assault was only discovered in 1986.
San Antonio resident Pablo Díaz, who would have been twenty years old at the time of the battle, claimed in a 1906 newspaper interview that he saw the body of one other Tejano defender, a man he identified simply as Cervantes. Though Seguín’s 1858 list of his company in the fall 1835 siege of Béxar campaign did include the name Agapito Cervantes, the Díaz claim has not been substantiated. At least one scholar also includes Guadalupe Rodríguez among the Alamo fallen on the basis of his apparent entry into the fort with Seguín’s group, but Rodríguez’s name did not appear on any muster rolls or other documentation following the battle. So while we know the Tejanos were there and played a role in the defense of the Alamo, we’ll probably never know for certain all of their names.
According to documents at the Institute of Texas Cultures and the Texas State Historical Association, the Tejano survivors of the final assault were, with only one known exception, noncombatant women and children. They included, Ana Salazar de Esparza, wife of Gregorio, who had with her their three sons, including Enrique. Enrique grew up to provide substantial interviews on the battle in his old age. Although her relationship to the Esparzas is not entirely clear, Petra Gonzales was also part of the Esparza party. Concepción Losoya, defender José Toribio Losoya’s mother, was accompanied into the Alamo by her daughter Juana Losoya Melton, who had married defender Eliel Melton, and their son Juan. Also present were sisters Juana Navarro Alsbury and Gertrudis Navarro, who were the daughters of the Department of Béxar’s political chief, José Angel Navarro.
Juana’s eleven-month-old son Alejo (Alijo) Pérez, the youngest person in the fort at the time of the battle, was also probably the last survivor of the battle. According to Enrique Esparza, Victoriana Salinas and her three daughters were also present.
So, too, was Brígido Guerrero, the Mexican army deserter who had joined Bowie’s party. He claimed to have survived the battle by hiding and waiting to be discovered. Once he was found he claimed to have been a prisoner of the Texians. His story was somewhat corroborated by Juan Almonte, one of Antonio López de Santa Anna’s officers. He said there indeed was a Mexican soldier prisoner who survived the final assault. Also, Enrique Esparza mentioned Guerrero by name as having hidden behind Ana Esparza (Enrique’s mother) before making his case and being spared.
Juan Seguín was not the only Tejano courier from the Alamo. Matías Curvier left with Seguín. They were met outside the walls by Antonio Cruz y Arocha, even though he not one of the defenders he did assist the Tejano couriers through the Mexican lines. During a three-day amnesty another Arocha, José María, departed. According to Seguín, Alexandro de la Garza was also sent from the Alamo, but historians are not certain of when he was sent.
Two other Alamo Tejanos were involved in outside assignments that prevented their participation in the defense. Trinidad Coy was captured on February 23 by the Mexican advance party and only escaped at the end of the battle. Luciano (José Sebastián) Pacheco had been sent by Seguín to retrieve a trunk of personal belongings at the time the Mexican advance was arriving and he was unable to make his way into the fort.
Candelario Villanueva testified in 1859 that he was one of Seguín’s men and was about to enter the Alamo with the company when Seguín sent him to lock up his house. He was unable to reach the fort and remained in town through the final assault.
The balance of Seguín’s men who entered the fort with him on February 23 constitute a controversial part of the Alamo story. According to Enrique Esparza, Santa Anna declared a three-day armistice after the first week of the siege. This contradicts Santa Anna’s own communications with Gen. José de Urrea, in which he made clear that Americans in arms against Mexico should be treated as pirates, as well as the Mexicans who joined them. Without any official Mexican military records indicating any grace period and Santa Anna’s expressed opinion, that the armistice’s took place is up for discussion.
There was a lull in the fighting that matches up with the known movement of people out of the fort. According to at least one account during that period, Seguín’s men Simón Arreola, Cesario Carmona, Lucio Enriques, Manuel Flores, Salvador Flores, Ignacio Gurrea [sic], Pedro Herrera, Eduardo Ramírez, Ambrosio Rodríguez, Vicente Zepeda, and a man known only by the last name of Silvero all left. It was also thought that Antonio Menchaca may also have taken advantage of the cease-fire, but he declared in his memoirs forty years later that at the start of the siege Bowie and Seguín encouraged him to take his family and leave, as he was a marked man.
Many of these men subsequently joined Seguín’s reconstituted company at Gonzales, and some participated under his command at the battle of San Jacinto.
Tejanos participated in the siege and final assault on the Mexican side as well. Some served to run errands and also performed other services for the Mexican army. However, unless conscripted at San Antonio into one of the units that participated in the final assault, no Tejano actively participated on the Mexican side in the attack of March 6.
Tejanos, of course, made up San Antonio’s leadership and were present during the siege and fall. Francisco Antonio Ruiz, San Antonio’s alcalde in 1836, declared that he, Ramón Músquiz, parish priest Refugio de la Garza, and other members of the town council were ordered by Santa Anna to dispose of the Mexican dead and help burn the bodies of the fallen defenders.
Historians will never know how many other Tejanos remained in San Antonio during the siege and battle nor will scholars be able to ascertain with certitude how many of those who later gave accounts of the Alamo’s fall actually witnessed the events. The facts that cannot be disputed is that many Tejanos served and served well during the battle of the Alamo. Next episode I’ll take a deeper look at the Battle of the Alamo.
Remember if you want more information on Texas History, visit the Texas State Historical Association. I also have two audiobooks on the Hidden History of Texas one which deals with the 1500s to about 1820, and the other one 1820s to 1830s. You can find the books pretty much wherever you download or listen to audiobooks. Links to all the stores are on my publishers website https://ashbynavis.com.